The Maine Warden Service resumed its ground search Tuesday for Geraldine Largay, a 66-year-old Tennessee woman who disappeared while hiking the Appalachian Trail in Franklin County nearly a year ago.

Largay, of Brentwood, Tenn., was last seen on the morning of July 22, at the Poplar Ridge lean-to in Redington Township. On Tuesday, the warden service, state police, federal border patrol officers and the Maine Search and Rescue Association resumed looking for the missing woman.

It was the first time the warden service, which is leading the investigation, has searchered on the ground this year to look for Largay. Aircraft searches have been underway since early spring, according to Cpl. John MacDonald of the warden service.

The warden service was still gathering information and evidence from searchers who were out Tuesday, although MacDonald said Wednesday it is unlikely it will lead to any breaks in the case.

“We are continuing to look for her. Yesterday’s search wasn’t prompted by any particular information, its just that the day presented itself,” he said.

McDonald said that the weather and dangerous terrain around the trail have played a large role in determining the search schedule.

About 500 people are reported missing in Maine each year, and almost all of them are found within 24 to 48 hours, according to the warden service. It’s not uncommon for hikers to disappear on the Appalachian Trail — of which 281 miles run through Maine — but it is unusual for a hiker not to be found, and that makes Largay’s case different.

As the one-year anniversary of her disappearance approaches, the warden service will continue to search for her, although no dates have been set yet for future searches, said MacDonald.

Meanwhile a friend of the family who has been in contact with Largay’s husband, George, said they hope the search will continue.

“The family is holding it together the best they can,” David Fox, of Nashville, said Wednesday. “They miss Gerry very much and they’re trying to find ways to honor her in continuing the search but also moving on with what they have to do day to day.”

George Largay is traveling and is not in Maine, but he is in touch with the warden service, according to Fox.

“There’s a lot of communication going on between George and the leaders of the search. They’re keeping him apprised of what they’re finding and he’s aware of everything,” Fox said.

Fox said he hadn’t heard of any clues being discovered in Largay’s disappearance and wasn’t sure why the warden service resumed its search Tuesday.

“It’s a very difficult terrain to search,” he said. “They need a large group of people and finding opportunities to bring those people together takes a little coordination. I’m not exactly sure what the search was yesterday but I know there’s discussion about looking different places and focusing on parts of the trail they weren’t able to look at as closely last year.”

The warden service is not the only group that continues to look for Largay. In late May, the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association spent nearly a week scouring Crocker Mountain, the state’s third largest peak. About 20 thru-hikers — those who hike from the start of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia to the end at the summit of Mount Katahdin — were involved in the search, said Mike Wingeart, association treasurer and a member of the search group.

“We just felt an obligation to go up and take another look,” said Wingeart, who lives in Baltimore. “We wanted to go after the snow had melted but before it got too green. We had really good sight lines, which was beneficial to the search, the only thing is we couldn’t find her and I don’t know where she is.”

Largay was last heard from on July 21, when she sent a text message to her husband saying she planned to meet him about eight miles north of the Poplar Ridge lean-to, where she was spending the night, in Wyman Township.

Another hiker, also from Tennessee, who was heading south on the trail, reported seeing her at the lean-to. But when Largay didn’t arrive at Wyman Township her husband reported her missing.

The warden service along with dozens of volunteers, dog teams and professional search and rescue workers fanned out over the area to search for Largay. They found plastic bags, shoes, walking sticks and a sports bra, none of which could be connected to Largay.

On Aug. 4 the warden service announced that it planned to “extensively scale back” the search, although an organized ground search was held in September and the warden service has continued to assist volunteers and other agencies in looking for her.

MacDonald said in August that the warden service would continue to investigate new leads in the case and said that the ground search is only half of the investigation into Largay’s disappearance; physical and anecdotal evidence are also important.

It does not appear that there is any new information to be learned from Tuesday’s search, but MacDonald said the warden service is still assessing the results.

“We are still looking through and talking to teams about what they may have stumbled on. All that stuff has to be evaluated and based on what we find we may plan another search,” he said.

Largay began her hike of the northern half of the 2,200 mile trail in April 2013 in West Virginia. She’d gone about 950 miles and was about 200 miles from her destination at the trail’s northern end, Baxter Peak at the summit of Mount Katahdin, when she disappeared.

Also known as Inchworm, Largay is 5-foot-5-inches tall, weighs about 115 pounds and was last seen wearing a black pullover shirt, tan pants, a blue hat and a black-and-green backpack.

There is a $15,000 reward being offered to anyone who can provide information leading to her location. Those with information are asked to call the Maine Warden Service at 207-624-7076.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

 


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